When you work at a company in Thailand, you have to register for the social security system.
However, the contributions you need to make per month are quite small. In addition, your company might not even notify you about it, leaving many expats not even aware that they are already in the Thailand social security system.
In this article, let’s take a look at everything you need to know when it comes to the social security system in Thailand, including how much you need to pay and how can you get benefits from it.
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- What Is It?
- How Many Types Are There?
- Do You Need It?
- How to Apply?
- How Much Do You Need to Pay?
- How to Pay for Thailand Social Security
- How to Use Thailand Social Security Benefits?
- What is the Best Social Security Hospital?
- Can I Change Hospitals?
- Is Social Security Sufficient?
- Do I Still Need Private Health Insurance?
- How to Claim Benefits When Moving Out of Thailand?
- Can a Director Get Social Security?
- How to Change from Section 33 to Section 39
- How to Receive a Pension
- Should I Receive a Pension from Thailand Social Security?
- How Much Pension Will I Receive?
- Now, on to You
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What Is It?
When you legally work in Thailand, chances are that you will be automatically registered with social security in Thailand by your employer.
It’s similar to social security in many countries in the world. Both you and your employer contribute a certain amount of money to the social security office, and get medical and employment benefits in return.
How Many Types Are There?
There are actually three types (section) of social security in Thailand as follows:
- Section 33: for everyone who is younger than 60 years old and working legally for a company in Thailand
- Section 39: for freelancers or retirees who had been enrolled in Section 33 before and still want to keep social security benefits
- Section 40: for freelancers who had never enrolled in Section 33 before
Each section gives you different benefits.
To summarize, section 33 gives you the best benefits out there. It comes with medical coverage, maternity coverage, child coverage, disability benefits, death compensation, pension, and unemployment benefits.
Section 39 is very similar to section 33, but you no longer have the unemployment benefits and the pension amount can be significantly less.
Section 40 mainly comes with medical coverage.
We will talk more about the benefits later in the article.
Although there are three types of social security available, as an expat working in Thailand, you only need to know about social security section 33, since it’s the only section that you need to deal with.
Do You Need It?
You need to apply and pay for social security if you are working for a company or organization in Thailand.
Even if you are a business owner with your own company in Thailand, you will also need to have it. It is required by law.
How to Apply?
You don’t need to do anything in order to apply for the Thailand social security. As soon as you get a business visa and start working, your company will contact the Social Security Office and apply for it on your behalf.
Once the application is done, your HR department may come to you and ask for your choice of hospital. However, in some companies, the HR department may also choose a hospital for you.
This is why many expats working in Thailand don’t even realize that they have already been enrolled in the Thailand social security system.
When you change your job, your previous and new employer will handle your social security on your behalf as well.
How Much Do You Need to Pay?
You contribute 5% of your salary to the Thailand social security system, up to a maximum salary of 15,000 baht.
This means the maximum you need to contribute is 750 baht per month, even if your salary exceeds 15,000 baht.
Then, your employer also needs to contribute an equal amount of money.
How to Pay for Thailand Social Security
Your social security will usually be deducted automatically from your salary and paid to the social security office by your employer on your behalf.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits you get from social security in Thailand.
If you have social security in Thailand, you can visit the hospital that you chose during your application and get free treatment for anything that is seen as “medically necessary” by doctors, including any pre-existing conditions.
While this seems good on paper, it might not be as good as you expect.
There are two main problems with the medical coverage from social security – waiting times and treatment quality.
Hospitals that accept social security are usually crowded all the time. You might need to go there early in the morning and wait for a few hours just to be able to see a doctor for a few minutes.
You also cannot choose the doctor yourself. You need to visit a general practitioner first before being referred to a specialist, which can take a week just to make an appointment.
Since doctors have only a few minutes to examine you, they might not be able to accurately diagnose your illness. Combined with limitations on choices of medications provided by the social security system, treatment quality is not on par with paying out of pocket yourself or using private health insurance.
However, it’s still possible to pay for additional medications yourself for those that are not covered by the social security system. You just need to talk to your doctor about it.
As an expat in Thailand, medical coverage might be the only benefit you get from the Thailand social security system. Other benefits are geared toward Thai citizens.
Some expats who had been with the Social Security section 33 decide to change their Thailand social security to section 39 after they retire here. This is mainly to receive the medical coverage benefit.
However, there are also those who completely ignore medical coverage from social security and rely purely on their private health insurance.
You can claim 15,000 baht toward the cost of baby delivery with Thailand social security.
In addition, they also pay you 200 to 500 baht per prenatal-care visit, up to a maximum amount of 1,500 baht.
If you are female, social security also gives you 7,500 baht per month for three months after delivering a baby.
Then social security will also give you 800 baht per month until your child is older than 6 years old.
Maternity coverage has a waiting period though. You need to be in the social security system for at least 15 months, and need to contribute to it for at least 5 months before being able to use this coverage.
If both you and your partner are in the social security system, you need to pick a person to make a claim for social security between you and your partner. Both of you cannot claim maternity coverage at the same time.
You get a free health check-up every year. It’s not a premium check-up though. It’s a basic package that only includes basic health tests such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood-cell count, and blood-sugar.
You can claim 900 baht a year for common dental treatments such as cleaning, fillings, and tooth removal.
If you visit a dental clinic that is partnered with the social security program, they will deduct this amount directly from your social security.
If not, you need to ask for a dental certificate, receipt, and a claim form from the dental clinic. Then you can fill out the form and send it along with a copy of your bank passbook to the social security office in your area for a reimbursement.
Or you can send it to your HR department and ask them to handle it on your behalf.
If you have minor disabilities while you’re in the Thailand social security program, they will pay you 30% of your daily rate for 180 months. Minor disabilities are any physical or mental disability you have that decreases your work efficiency.
Your daily rate is calculated from the maximum salary as defined by the social security program, which is at 15,000 baht a month.
However, for major disabilities, such as loss of a limb, you will be paid 50% of your daily rate throughout your life.
To claim the disability benefit, you need to present a medical certificate from a hospital in Thailand.
If you retire in Thailand after having contributed to Thailand social security for 180 months (15 years) and no longer in the social security system, you will get a pension at the rate of 20% of your average over the last 60 months for the rest of your life.
On the other hand, if you contribute to SSO for more than 12 months but less than 180 months, you will receive a lump sum instead.
In case of death, social security in Thailand will pay 40,000 baht for the funeral. They will also give your family compensation of 50% of your salary for four months or twelve months depending on how long you have been on the social security program.
If you have contributed to the program for 36 months to 110 months, they will pay your family for four months.
On the other hand, if you have contributed to the program for more than 120 months, they will pay your family for twelve months.
If you are unemployed, you will get compensation from social security in Thailand as follows:
- If your contract has been terminated, you will receive 50% of your social security maximum salary for 6 months.
- If you quit the company yourself, you will receive 30% of your social security maximum salary for 3 months.
However, it is a challenge to receive this unemployment benefit.
Most of the time, if you no longer work in Thailand, you need to immediately leave the country. This means you won’t have a chance to claim for this benefit at all.
How to Use Thailand Social Security Benefits?
All of the benefits can be claimed at your local social security office. They all require similar documents, which are:
- A copy of your passport
- Your social security number
- A copy of your bank passbook
- A social security form, which can be picked up at the social security office
- Other related documents such as medical certificates for dental coverage
In case you visit your social security hospital, previously, you needed to show your social security card along with your passport in order to claim your social security benefits.
However, the card was cancelled many years ago. Right now, you only need to tell your social security number and show your passport.
You can ask for your social security number from your HR department.
What is the Best Social Security Hospital?
This is a tricky question. Each hospital in the social security system has its pros and cons.
The top government hospitals in Bangkok like Chulalongkorn and Siriraj offer great quality care. But due to their popularity you’re rarely able to pick them.
People tend to avoid some of the smaller, for-profit clinics in Thailand. While they might be easy to get to or have shorter wait times, things might get hairy if you end up needing more costly healthcare.
This means you should pick a large hospital from the get go. If you pick a smaller hospital and your case is serious, a smaller hospital has to refer you to a larger hospital before you can get treated.
But referral processes can be awkward, making it much better to be with a large hospital like Lerdsin Hospital or General Police Hospital to begin with.
In the past, Camillian Hospital was known to be the best social security hospital in Bangkok. However, they are no longer a part of the social security system.
Right now, it’s based on what you need. In general, big public hospitals such as Police Hospital, Chulalongkorn Hospital, and Rajavithi Hospital are great options if you want to use social security for severe illnesses only.
These public hospitals are usually overcrowded. Some people need to go there at 4am for a simple doctor’s visit. But they have experienced doctors and are equipped with modern facilities that can take care of all types of illness.
On the other hand, private hospitals available on the social security system are good for common illnesses. The waiting time is shorter than public hospitals, but their facilities might not be sufficient for treating complicated cases.
Because of this, I’ve put together a list of Bangkok hospitals in the social security healthcare system that are available to Thai people and that are recommended for their quality of care by friends in the medical field:
|crowded, good for orthopedics (sports injuries)
|one of the largest, lots of specialists on staff
|social security allows you to use all their branches
In addition, we also have an exclusive guide about which hospital to choose for the SSO program.
Can I Change Hospitals?
You can change your social security hospital once a year from the middle of December to the end of March.
During this period, you can talk to your HR department if you want to change your hospital. They should give a list of available hospitals and you just need to pick one from the list. Alternatively, you can check the SSO website.
They usually release an updated list of hospitals around that time of the year.
Is Social Security Sufficient?
In practice, Social Security means free treatment. But the costs come in the form of long lines, limited medication, and rushed doctor visits.
And you might not be able to get some patented, more recent drugs with Social Security.
It’s common for doctors at Social Security hospitals to see between eighty and one hundred patients during an eight-hour shift. This means they only have a few minutes to spare for you.
Which hospital you get assigned to will affect the quality of care you’ll get. The difference between hospitals can be significant.
You can get treatment at hospitals outside of the one assigned to you, including premium private hospitals, if you are referred by your designated hospital.
If it’s an emergency treatment, you’re covered for the first seventy-two hours of necessary care. But you’ll get coverage for a lower amount than what basic local insurance covers. And you’ll need to pay and get reimbursed later at the Social Security Office.
Do I Still Need Private Health Insurance?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. There are many expats and even locals in Thailand who contribute to social security in Thailand every month but never use its medical benefits at all.
They buy additional private health insurance and use it to visit premium private hospitals in Thailand because of a much shorter waiting time and better experience.
There are also those who use social security only when they have severe illnesses.
Therefore, it’s more on your expectations. If you are okay with the waiting time and service from the social security system, you don’t need to buy additional insurance. On the other hand, if you expect short waiting times and quality treatment, it’s a good idea to have private health insurance.
To find out more, you can read our in-depth guide to health insurance in Thailand.
How to Claim Benefits When Moving Out of Thailand?
Most expats decide not to get Thailand social security benefits at all after moving out of Thailand since it usually isn’t worth the effort. This is mainly because of the amount of financial compensation, which isn’t a lot, and complicated procedures.
You need to visit your local social security office before moving out of Thailand. You need to go there with someone who can read and speak Thai since most social security officers in Thailand cannot speak English and all the forms you need to fill are going to be in Thai.
In addition, social security will only send money to banks in Thailand.
Any time you quit your job, your employer needs to notify the social security office. If you cannot find a new job, then your social security will be automatically cancelled until you can find a new job in Thailand.
Can a Director Get Social Security?
This depends on the definition of a director. Generally, there are two scenarios.
In the first scenario, if you establish a company in Thailand and become a director of your own company, you CANNOT receive Social Security in Thailand, as Social Security is primarily for employees.
On the other hand, if you are employed as a director and receive a salary without owning any company capital, it is possible to receive social security.
How to Change from Section 33 to Section 39
If you wish to change your Social Security from Section 33 to Section 39, it is possible under these conditions:
- You no longer work for a company in Thailand.
- You have contributed to Social Security Section 33 for more than a year.
- You can stay in Thailand with other types of visas (such as a marriage visa, a retirement visa, etc.)
To change from Section 33 to Section 39, you need to:
- Visit your local Social Security Office within 6 months after leaving your company.
- Bring these documents:
- Your passport.
- Your bank book with a copy of the first page (for paying Social Security).
Once there, you can pick up an application form, fill it out, and submit it with all the required documents.
Please note that the entire process, including the application form, will be in Thai. Therefore, it is advisable to bring someone who speaks Thai with you.
Your Social Security payments will be deducted automatically from your bank account every month.
Please note that some Social Security offices may require you to have a pink ID or a yellow tabian ban.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to call your local Social Security office first and inquire about their specific requirements.
If you become employed again, your Social Security will automatically switch back to Section 33.
How to Receive a Pension
To receive a pension, there are two main conditions:
- You must be older than 55 years old.
- You have been contributing to Social Security for more than 12 months
- You must stop contributing to Social Security.
If you have contributed to Social Security for less than 180 months, you will receive a lump sum. If it’s more than 180 months, you will receive a pension, which will be sent directly to your Thai bank account.
To start receiving your pension, visit your local Social Security office with your passport and a bank book with its copy.
Please note that once you start receiving a pension, you will no longer be eligible for medical benefits.
Should I Receive a Pension from Thailand Social Security?
This decision is entirely up to you.
Many retirees in Thailand continue contributing to Social Security Section 39 because they want to maintain their medical benefits. At the very least, if something happens, they can still go to their social security hospital for treatment.
They choose not to get private health insurance, as it can be expensive after the age of 60 and may not cover pre-existing conditions.
How Much Pension Will I Receive?
Your pension will be 20% of your average salary over the last 60 months, paid for the rest of your life.
For example, if your average salary is 15,000 baht a month, which is currently the maximum salary in Thailand’s social security system, you will receive 3,000 baht as a pension per month.
Additionally, if you have contributed to social security in Thailand for more than 180 months (15 years), you will receive an additional 1.5% per year.
For example, if you have contributed for 16 years, you will receive a pension of 3,045 baht per month (3,000 baht + 1.5%).
Now, on to You
We hope that this article answers everything you need to know when it comes to social security in Thailand.
Although it’s not the best system out there and has limited benefits for expats, it can still give you some health coverage that you might need in the future.
To use social security in Thailand or completely ignore it is totally up to you.
If you have any experience with Thailand social security, please feel free to leave your comments below.
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